England rugby: EPS training squad – winners and losers
Eddie Jones has named his provisional EPS squad for a four-day squad camp later this month but who will be elated and who will be deflated from it?
Eddie Jones has named his first England training squad of the new season – a 45-man party – who will gather this weekend in London for a four-day camp. Predictably the head coach has pulled out some unpredictable selections, so who are the winners and losers?
Like Nathan Hughes, Mike Williams, Josh Beaumont, Kyle Sinckler, Joe Marchant, Charlie Ewels, Dan Robson and Ben Te’o full-back Haley is one of a number of uncapped players named in the squad and it is reward for an excellent season where he was virtually ever-present for Sale. He and Beaumont have proved you don’t have to play for one of the so-called fashionable clubs to get noticed, and his display in the first Saxons match in South Africa, a 32-24 win in Bloemfontein was enough for him to get the nod.
Haley only played three minutes of the second game, before going off injured, but his running the week before caught the eye. The 23-year-old has just signed a new three-year contract at Sale and has been tipped to go all the way by club boss Steve Diamond.
Rugby’s romantics would have liked to have seen Hughes running out for Fiji at the last World Cup but it was pretty clear when he arrived at Wasps that he had his eyes set on playing for England. The Fijian-born backrower’s qualification period ended just after England’s series in Australia and he has made the first squad he is eligible for.
Outplayed by Billy Vunipola, when the two big No. 8s met in the Champions’ Cup semi-final in April, Hughes is seen by Jones as more of a six than an eight although the boss admits he has plenty to work on. Hughes will definitely win Test caps for England but they might be later rather than sooner.
There was no such thing as out of sight, out of mind for the Gloucester wing May who has not played since just after Christmas thanks to a serious knee injury. May, who has 19 caps, was always in the forefront of Stuart Lancaster’s selection thinking but cannot have been expecting this call-up after so long away from the fray.
However he is quick-witted and has plenty of gas and if that package is back, then there is no reason why he won’t be challenging Anthony Watson for the left wing berth come the Six Nations. Probably not before.
No-one saw Youngs’ omission from the training squad in January coming and no-one really saw his re-instatement, as one of four hookers, coming this time around either. The new Leicester captain has not played a match since 24 January after suspension and back surgery but Jones must be keen to have a look at him or he would not have bothered to call him up for this camp.
Youngs is probably in a scrap with Luke Cowan- Dickie to be the third hooker, behind captain Dylan Hartley and Jamie George, but at least he is in there and it is a welcome boost for a hard-working player trying to get rid of the stains of the last World Cup. He has won 28 caps but with Hartley and George about, probably needs someone to get injured to add to them.
Ashton is still feeling the fall-out from his 10-week ban in the spring which ruled him out of the Six Nations and it looks a long way back for the Saracens wing. In January he was in decent form and had been named in Eddie Jones’ first England squad before being suspended for an eye-gouging incident with Ulster’s Luke Marshall. That put the kybosh on an immediate return – he has not played a Test since June 2014 – and his decision to miss the Saxons trip to South Africa looks like the wrong one now with plenty of wings in front of him.
Ashton, 29, may have felt that with 39 caps, 19 international tries and a new baby on the way, the second-string trip was not for him, but Jones obviously felt differently despite Saracens’ pleas, the Australian had given him the thumbs-up to stay at home.
Cipriani was one of the headline omissions after seeming to do his bit with the Saxons. The 28-year-old last played for England, off the bench, in a World Cup warm-up match in Paris and has managed just 14 caps more than eight years after his debut. After missing out on the Australia tour though, Cipriani did the right thing by knuckling down with the Saxons and playing a leading role in the wins in Bloemfontein and George.
But he has obviously not done enough to get in front of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Henry Slade and you get the feeling his move to Wasps will be his last chance to impress and get a foothold in the international team. If he does not make it, it would be a criminal waste.
If the Gloucester flanker is not in the top 45 players in England then World Cup glory is surely a formality for Jones in 2019. It is hard to see what Kvesic has done wrong since being overlooked for the famous pair of six-and-a-halves in James Haskell and Chris Robshaw who did an outstanding job in Australia.
Kvesic was outstanding for the Saxons in South Africa and if England do truly want a number seven, rather than the make-do-and-mend option they have used so brilliantly so far then Kvesic is your man. But he is out with the washing for the moment and with Haskell injured must be wondering what he has got to do to get a look-in.
Hooked after half an hour of the first Test in Brisbane and now dropped from the training squad – it must be a confusing time to be Luther Burrell right now. He missed out on the World Cup thanks to the Sam Burgess farrago and it is just possible he might not see the light of day in an England Test jersey again after 15 caps since 2014.
The centre needs a massive start to the Premiership season with Northampton to get a shot with Jones but with the Ford/Farrell axis set to last the 28-year-old is bang up against it.